Easter was a whirlwind this year. It began with the Seder on Friday (more on that next week!), then hightailing it to Massachusetts for the weekend. This was the first holiday since my sister and her husband bought their first house, and there’s no better way to break it in than packing the whole family in for celebration.

I should know by now that my well-thought plans rarely go accordingly. Arrive early on Saturday! I told myself. My sister had already looked up the local Catholic Vigil times, and 7:00 p.m. gave us plenty of time to arrive and help with holiday prep. I’d been talking up the 3-hour Vigil with my boyfriend for a week, awaiting the evening’s grand party-like celebration.

We didn’t leave early morning as expected, though I rarely do. After a requisite pit-stop at my parents’ house, and an additional stop for brunch, and some Connecticut traffic, we didn’t arrive until 5:00. We had just enough time to unpack the car, scarf down dinner, and rush to 7:00 Mass… which was alarmingly empty. Because it didn’t really begin until 7:30.

The Vigil was… decidedly un-party-like. They skipped half the readings. The choir sang at varying pitches and tempos. I couldn’t even see the Paschal candle, so I’m not sure when (or if) it was lit. Mass was just over 1.5 hours, though I can’t say I was disappointed. The cold rain was a fitting end.

“I just want to go home and do it over,” I moped.

Easter morning brought unexpected sunlight, since it was forecasted to rain. The kids hadn’t finished opening their baskets before plunging into the egg hunt. There were two different varieties of lamb in slow cookers, and potted tulips of varying colors in the kitchen. The parents arrived earlier than planned, with the lack of Sunday morning traffic. We all piled into cars for Easter service, a potential do-over at the Episcopal church. It wasn’t a do-over—it was long, and both kids and adults were getting restless—but the non-Episcopals whispered in their pew, and my niece quietly doodled in her church bulletin.

I realized even our thwarted Saturday wasn’t completely thwarted: There had been enough time for meal prep. We hid Easter eggs after the kids had gone to sleep, scouring the new house for good hiding spots. Sunday afternoon, the women gossiped in the kitchen as the lone Jew bonded with the Chaplain over video games. We teased one another over our respective churches. (“The Catholics are boring anyway!” or “That Episcopal service was as bad as the Baptists!”)

We didn’t wake Dad from his nap when it was time to eat, since he would drive the 4-hour ride home that evening. We piled our plates with potatoes and spiced lamb, looking across the potted tulips on the table. When Dad stirred and asked, “Is it dinner time yet?” we stifled a laugh, pretending our empty plates hadn’t yet been filled.

Things often don’t follow even the best thought-out plans. But sometimes, it doesn’t rain all weekend. Sometimes you bond with family over the potency of (delicious) moroccan-spiced lamb, and fill in the blanks for a Jew at a mediocre church service. Honoring God is more than just a spirited Easter Vigil. It’s loving your family, and witnessing the joy of a kid who found an Easter egg jingling with quarters. It’s teaching others about Jesus, and respecting and learning from one another, too.

So, happy Easter!
(Though maybe next year we’ll have that Vigil party.)